With few changes in almost two decades, Victoria’s noise bylaw has become difficult to enforce as the city faces a rising number of complaints.
The current bylaw is ineffective at addressing noise itself and the related complaints, indicates a staff report to be presented at Victoria’s committee-of-the-whole meeting Thursday (Dec. 9).
“The issues with enforcing the bylaw are related to enforcement capacity, the complaints-based system, the ticketing system and efficacy/relevance of some bylaw sections,” the report states.
Several avenues the city could take to reduce decibel levels are offered, but staff recommend a targeted approach to address the most common sources of noise-related complaints. That would include bylaw amendments designed to reduce noise coming from construction, garbage collection, power equipment use and nighttime hospitality venues.
Victoria moved to an online-based reporting system in 2019 and saw the number of noise complaints roughly double that year compared to the two years prior.
For most complaints, a city staff member must be able to directly measure the sound level. When they can’t be there in person, the report states, evidence produced by the complainant often doesn’t meet the standard for a noise violation.
Potential solutions could include adding enforcement staff or approving bylaw amendments that make administration more efficient. Without those amendments, staff estimate seven additional bylaw officers would be needed for enforcement, along with additional police officers to accompany them for safety reasons.
Calling the practice of hand-delivering noise-related tickets to alleged offenders “administratively inefficient,” the report says switching to the same mail-based system used for parking tickets would streamline time, court and administrative issues.
City generated data showed that as more people move downtown, nearby such hospitality industry sites as bars, restaurants and other nightlife, the number of complaints has also gone up.
A 2019 city commissioned review suggested more bylaw staff at night, building with sound mitigation in mind and creating sound regulations as possible ways to tackle noise from the hospitality sector.
The report said Victoria council could review regulations for construction, garbage collection and the use of power tools to mitigate the noise from these sources. Those reviews could include looking into permitted operation hours and clarifying authority to fine service providers.
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